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June 10, 2011

Facilities Construction Proceeding Briskly

If work continues to proceed according to plan, more than 2,000 vehicles carrying South Carolina football fans should be allowed to park at the Farmers Market site this upcoming season for the seven home football games on the schedule.

By the time demolition of the buildings is finished in early September, only one structure, a large green shed in the far corner of the property, will be left standing.

"For this football season, it will be a flat parking lot except for the shed," USC Executive Associate AD Kevin O'Connell told Gamecock Central earlier this week.

USC officials hope the bidding process for the right to build up the property will take place by the end of the summer, and for work to begin soon after the final home football game against Clemson on Nov. 26.

Advertising for construction companies to bid on the Farmers Market project is tentatively scheduled for late summer.

The school has budgeted $15.5 million for the project, but considering the state of the economy that price could decrease when the bids are finally opened.

When completed in 2012, the Farmers Market will contain enough parking spots for about 3,000 vehicles and feature a "green" recreational area with a stage for concerts.

Also, the Gamecock Walk prior to home football games will start at the Farmer's Market. Most vehicles that now park adjacent to Williams-Brice Stadium will be moved across the street in 2012. This season, most vehicles will continue to park next to the stadium.

Meanwhile, construction in Phase II of the Athletic Village is well underway. The 300-space parking garage adjacent to the Dodie should be completed in July, while the sparkling tennis complex is expected to be finished by the middle of August in time for the start of the fall season.

Student parking will be permitted on levels 4 and 5 of the garage, O'Connell said.

As a result, both the men's and women's tennis programs should be able to play their fall schedules at the state-of-the-art facility.

Construction of the three-story, 66,000 square foot administration (a/k/a coaches support) building started a couple of months ago and the $8.1 million structure is now 15 percent complete. The building is scheduled to open in the summer of 2012.

Good weather has helped construction proceed along at a brisk pace, Hyman said. The entire steel frame for the much-needed building (it will replace the outdated and deteriorating Roundhouse) is expected to be in place by the end of June.

Rodgers Builders, Inc. of Charlotte, NC, one of the country's 200 largest construction companies, is the general contractor for the project. Their most visible project to date has been the Billy Graham Library, which opened in 2007.

"The construction company has been moving at it very quickly," Hyman said. "They're a very big company. I don't know if they have a huge number of projects going on right now, so they've been able to put their focus and resources into a few projects and that has sped things up."

While work continues at the Roost/Athletics Village and across the street from Williams-Brice Stadium, the locker rooms for the men's and women's basketball teams inside Colonial Life Arena are undergoing significant renovations costing $1 million.

Major benefactor Dodie Anderson donated the money to pay for the upgrades, which are supposed to be completed in time for the start of the 2011-2012 season.

Upgrades to the softball stadium and football practice facility (the Proving Ground) both received Phase I approval in April at the most recent Board of Trustees meeting and are now weaving their way through the state government process.

Both projects will be presented to the State Budget and Control Board (SCBCB) on June 14. Once the SCBCB signs off on the projects, bidding for the architectural work will commence. No contracts may be entered into with an architect until the SCBCB gives their blessing.

Eventually, the marathon 18-month approval process will shift into Phase II when funding for the projects is sought. O'Connell said that stage won't begin "for quite a while."

The extensive renovations to the softball stadium (Beckham Field) are tentatively expected to cost about $8 million, while the upgrades to the Proving Ground are estimated to be $1.5 million.

New batting cages are planned for Beckham Field along with substantial improvements to the stadium itself. The enhancements are required by Title IX since USC spent over $40 million building Carolina Stadium with three indoor batting cages for the baseball program.

The outdoor football practice facility is plagued by poor drainage, turning the two practice fields into a swamp whenever it rains for a lengthy period of time, and poor lighting.

Hyman is negotiating a long-term extension to the lease for use of the Proving Ground with the S.C. National Guard. The current lease runs through 2014 and Hyman said he plans to seek a five-year extension.

"We're all on the same wavelength conceptually, it's just a matter of getting the details," Hyman said. "We're waiting to hear back from the Corps of Engineers. If we're going to make that kind of commitment, you have to have that long-term lease. It's a work in progress."

With the USC athletic department focusing their efforts on the new administration building, tennis complex, softball stadium, Proving Ground and Farmer's Market, a new indoor facility for the football team is on the back burner and years away from being realized.

According to sources, a new indoor facility with a 100-yard practice field is projected to cost upwards of $15 million and, if built, will likely be located towards the rear of the renovated Farmers Market property.

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